Jeffery Donaldson has given us permission to publish this lovely poem:
House of Cards
For Garry Sherbert
“Ah, that fine fragile cathedral,”
said Jacques Derrida of Northrop Frye’s
Anatomy, one evening he was asked,
and there implied that, sooner or later,
literature’s whole top-heavy elaborate estate,
its fictive papers gingerly assembled,
would come crashing down on itself,
your canny devotions notwithstanding.
Said Frye himself: the world we create
in our imaginations is above time;
when the whole structure is finished,
nature, its scaffolding, is knocked away….
For Monsieur, you have fiction’s ephemera,
the broad-footed obelisk’s weightless
undergirdings, giddy and unhinged.
For the Canuck, nature is the provisional
gizmo, down and out, all gauze and gimcrack,
a mustered rigging’s trial-and-error.
Something between them will have to give.
Look this way and let us watch a moment
this child at work on a house of cards,
her painstaking piecemeal agglomerations,
rows of card-pair tee-pees’ touching tips
rising pyramidal, fine-flicked and unquibbling,
frangible as Tiffany. Her gangly,
jeweller’s-eye-tuned hand at widdershins
and dodging round buttresses athwart
must have a knack for stealth, that furtive
gesture, nearly, of not putting a thing
where you leave it, lifting your fingers free.
The testy habiliments climb to a single point,
light headed, slackening upwards,
all the more shouldering less and less,
next to nothing in the end. Fixed on little
more than the touchy gossamer integra,
she knows its equilibrium is a travesty,
how far from sound-footed, how possessed
of no greater poise than that each
tipped buttress is already half-toppled.
And she knows how we wait for hubris
to come knocking the moment she gingers
a last card onto the ticklish pinnacle.
Her staying it was never in the cards,
we like to say. The rooms are empty.
Once the whole is done, she’ll need to wreck it.
How that last one didn’t trigger the upset
let-down already settled upon, who knows?
Her patience is dizzying. Her fingers, feathers.
In the end she will not keep us guessing,
or leave unproven for a Derrida or Frye
what comes next once she is finished with it,
this dwelling she had a hand in making
that tapers at all odds above the fallen world,
once she is above knocking it down.